By Nayyer Khan
Both Jamat-e-Islami and Pakistan’s deep state were looking for a charismatic character, who had a glitz of the Western culture and a mindset of an Islamist. One senior memeber of Jamat-e-Islami, namely Hafizullah Niazi effectively solved this problem by finding the right person for this job. He happened to be the brother-in-law of Cricket’s super star, male sex symbol and Casanova of International repute, Imran Khan.
The Jamaat Islami (JI) won Pakistan state’s patronage to be given a role in home politics for the first time during the brief, yet eventful tenure of military ruler Yahya Khan, when designing of state’s vital policy matters was assigned to then minister for Information and National Affairs, Major General Sher Ali Khan. Yahya Khan was no different from his predecessors – starting from Jinnah to Ayub Khan – who were hardly observant of Islamic practices in their personal lives; but had used political Islam as a major tool for defining national identity and nation-building. They wished to keep militant Islamism under control to prevent it from destabilizing domestic politics; yet direct it against India and also to use it to counter the leftist and nationalist dominant trends that were at the time working against what they deemed the Islamic ideology underpinning the state. In Sher Ali’s scheme of things the “ideology of Pakistan and glory of Islam” became pet words of our military leadership, which projected the army itself as ultimate defender of the ‘ideology of Pakistan’. Learning the lesson from public agitation against Ayub Khan, Sher Ali convinced Yahya that army should maintain its mythical image before the people as a final savior of the nation whenever national interests so demanded and, therefore, control the national politics from behind the scene; to avoid any situation in which people of Pakistan would ever confront the army directly. For this purpose a weak political government was needed to arise from the first general elections in Pakistan, scheduled to take place by the end of 1970, to be used as a fig leaf to army’s oligarchy.
As per Sher Ali plans the results of the polls were not to be manipulated during; but before the polls by providing the state’s assistance to religio-political parties – especially JI – in shape of financial and propaganda support. The substantial funds of Ayub Khan’s faction of the Muslim League confiscated by the Yahya’s Martial law regime were diverted to JI, in addition to money raised by IB from the industrialists and business class to fund the election campaign of Islamic parties (Hasan Zaheer ‘The Separation of East Pakistan’ Oxford University Press. pp 124-125). Funds were also poured in JI’s pouch by the Saudi government as well as Saudi sponsored Rabita al-Alam al-Islami.
Following the journalists strike in April-May 1970, media purification and purging was carried out by Sher Ali to replace leftist and secularist media persons with those from JI’s cadres, both in state and private owned media, thereby amplifying Islamic overtones. Emphasis was made by JI, backed by state propaganda machinery, that Pakistan’s ideology was threatened by ‘non-religious’ socialist and secularists like Z.A. Bhutto and Sheikh Mujeeb-ul-Rahman.
By doing all this, Pakistan’s deep state was trying to kill two birds with one stone viz preventing emergence of a strong popular government by ensuring a split mandate in the polls, so that army could always play the role of a moderator or a referee amongst wrangling politicians, and keep Islamists’ influence in the state’s matters to maintain the national ideology which had little room for secularist views. (For details see Ayesha Jalal’s ‘State of Martial rule’ Cambridge University Press, 1990).
However, against all the speculations of intelligence agencies, the results of the election astonished everybody. The secularist ultra-nationalist Awami League and centrist Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) swept the elections in East and West Pakistan respectively. The JI altogether secured only 7 out of 440 National Assembly seats. The Jamiat Ulema Islam – which was a less favored Islamist party for the establishment – did little better due to its alliance with left-wing parties instead of other Islamists.
The chief architect of the election plans, General Sher Ali, was extremely disappointed with election results and resigned in disgust. The establishment had miserably failed to foresee that the bearded bespectacled oldies of JI with flat expressions were no match for mesmerizing personalities of flamboyant Bhutto and firebrand Mujeeb, to attract the populace of Pakistan.
During Z.A. Bhutto’s reign JI remained opposed to the political government; but maintained its cooperation with the security establishment. Bhutto was an Islamist too like preceding rulers of Pakistan. Islamism is a term given to political Islam in which its protagonists do not necessarily have to be practicing Muslims. With his ambitions for Pan-Islamic world and ‘Islamic bomb’ and his coupling of religion with state in the 1973 constitution, there is no doubt that Bhutto was one of the greatest Islamists ever. However, while he wanted to use both Mullah and Military for strategic depth and other covert plans at the international level, he was not willing to allow either of them to have any say in domestic affairs. This deepened the rivalry between the security establishment and PPP, while drawing JI closer to the former. The JI was an important tool of deep state of Pakistan in its Central Asia plans, starting from Afghanistan and extended to Muslim majority Central Asian states, which were the part of the USSR and even to East Turkistan (Xinjiang). Xinjiang became a lower priority though, in consideration of the growing Pak-China relationship. Afghanistan was on the top of the list. Following Daud’s crackdown on Jamaat-e-Islami Afghanistan in 1973, its leadership fled to Pakistan, where it was initially hosted by JI Pakistan. Shortly after, however, both the security establishment and political government of Pakistan welcomed and patronized it for Islamist insurgencies in Afghanistan.
Qazi tries to make JI a populist party of the people
After Zia-ul-Haq’s coup, the JI entered the corridors of power through the backdoor by having strong representation in his hand-picked cabinet. It supported and campaigned for ‘yes’ vote in Zia’s infamous referendum of Dec, 1984. However, in the election of Feb, 1985 held on nonparty basis the members of JI contesting as individuals, once again bit the dust, this time at the hands of locally influential politicians.
Nevertheless, Zia’s tenure totally transformed JI from a meek looking and docile bunch of molvies into violent, aggressive and hostile group of people always ready to wage armed Jihad by virtue of its joint operations with the Pakistani establishment in the Afghan Jihad (1978-88). Although JI student wing Islami Jamiat-e-Talaba (IJT) always had these tendencies, which it had, besides other occasions, demonstrated to the fullest during 1971 Pakistan Army operations in Bangladesh (then East Pakistan). Now the JI got even closer to Pakistan’s security establishment.
Under Maududi and Mian Tufail Mohammad the JI maintained a very stringent and restricted procedure for qualifying as its member. It would not go after cheap popularity at the cost of its orthodoxy and inflexible principles. However, it all started changing after Qazi Hussain Ahmed was elected as JI Ameer (Chief) in 1987. Qazi wanted to shed off JI’s image as a party with limited appeal and circumscribed entry for general public. He sought to become a leader of masses. He would not mind resorting to vulgar publicity and cheap means to popularize himself and JI, which his predecessors would never like to do. This was the time when aging JI veterans were giving way to fresh blood of IJT old boys. Qazi and his team planed and implemented publicity and promotion tactics laced with catchy slogans and political gimmicks. For instance, before the 1988 elections every other wall in the country was chalked with the slogan “Zalimo! Qazi a’a raha hai” (Oh oppressors! Qazi is approaching). In 1990 the election symbol of IJI (right wing multi-party alliance of which JI was a part) was bicycle. During election campaign, Qazi led bicycle rallies in various cities by riding a bicycle himself. However, a moulvi wearing shalwar and Jinnah cap with his beard swaying in the breeze while paddling bicycle hardly looked attractive to the general public of Pakistan, which has strong tendency towards the personality cult. In 1997, Qazi launched a nationwide campaign to expand the party membership, which was now open for almost everyone.
However, despite all efforts by Qazi to win popularity in the masses, the JI failed to make an impressive show in each election that it participated in, with the exception of one held in 2002 in which the leadership of both mainstream parties viz PPP and PML-N were forced to stay out of the scene by General Pervaiz Musharaf.
JI has a significant influence in Pakistan’s domestic politics due to its strong representation in the media, ability to show street power and its connection with both the security establishment and militant outfits. However, as far as its vote bank is concerned, it remains on the lower side. The main reason inter alia could be that the JI carries a tag of Deobandi Islam, which majority of Pakistani’s population is not the follower of. The other major reason is that although general public in Pakistan is very narrow minded and conservative in its religious outlook; yet it is very liberal and secular when it comes to personal life style. It wishes death on ‘Kafir’ (infidel) India; but cannot stop watching Indian movies. It likes to hate the USA with a passion; but has a similar passion for an Americanized way of living.
Mutation of JI
Both Pakistan’s establishment and JI have been realizing the need of a front organization with a moderate semblance for quite some time now, which has the potential to win popularity in the masses. This desire is reflected in JI’s creation of Pasban in the early 1990s. Its name was changed to Shabab-e-Milli when Pasban was banned in 1995 after its involvement in violent acts by the then government of Nawaz Sharif. Apparently these were independent organizations; yet it was but too obvious that they were JI protégés. The public postures of these organizations were more of a Pakistani nationalist than Islamic. To arouse public enthusiasm, patriotic songs were played with music in Pasban’s rallies, which was against the traditional JI culture. Cricket world cup victory of 1992 was celebrated by Pasban all over Pakistan by holding Junaid Jamshaid’s Pepsi-Pakistan music shows. Pasban was publicized in all possible ways. It, however, lacked a leader possessing magnetism necessary to attract the general public. Both the JI and Pakistan’s deep state were looking for a charismatic character like Jinnah and (Z.A) Bhutto, who had a glitz of the Western culture and a mindset of an Islamist. One senior JI member, who had previously been the Nazim (head) of IJT at the Punjab University namely Hafeez ullah Niazi effectively solved this problem by finding the right person for this job. He happened to be the brother-in-law of cricket’s super star, male sex symbol and Casanova of International repute, Imran Khan.
JI’s early nurturing of Imran
It was easy for Hafeez Ullah to preach Maudaudi’s Islamic ideology to Imran, who, after overly enjoying the best of this world was seeking the same for the other too. Imran retired from cricket first time in 1987, after his team’s defeat in world cup’s semi final at Lahore, but reversed his decision at the insistence of General Zia ul Haq. After winning the world cup of 1992 as captain of Pakistan’s cricket team he attained the status of a national hero, after which he finally hung up his cricket shoes. A series of articles written by Imran from 1987 to 1992, in which he criticized the Western culture and British Empire and emphasized on promotion of one’s own Islamic-Nationalistic identity, reflected a deep influence of JI’s brainwashing. The JI got hold of Imran in the early stages of his reversion to his native culture.
Imran, who wished to remain in the public eye even after retiring from cricket, started building a non-profit cancer hospital in Lahore. Pasban helped him in organizing the fund raising campaign for this purpose, after Punjab government of Nawaz Sharif donated free land for the proposed project. Here an event exposed yet another traditional hypocritical double standard of the JI. Since the mid 1980s, Pakistani artists had been performing in shows in India. In return, a few event organizers and show biz promoters in Pakistan tried to invite Indian artists to perform in Pakistan too. However, those proposed events had to be cancelled due to vociferous threats by Pasban to forcibly stop any such programs. But, when in 1995, Imran invited Indian movie stars such as Rekha, Vinod Khana, Sonu Walia, Kabir Bedi etc to perform in Lahore for the fund raising for his hospital, Pasban did not object to it even a bit. Similarly, JI has always been doing character assassination of its rivals, by finding faults in their personal lives. For instance, in 1970s the JI targeted “un-Islamic life style” of Z.A. Bhutto. In public speeches and slogans in rallies; it called Bhutto “sharabi” and “za’ni” (buzzer and adulterer). However, Imran’s colorful life and his established love-child never bothered the JI. In the case of Bhutto, however, the JI went so below the dignity as to allege that his mother was a Hindu. When in 1994 the critic of Western culture and British aristocracy, Imran married a lady from British Jewish elitist back ground, it did not raise JI’s eyebrow.
Making of PTI under JI’s fostering
There is little doubt about it that PTI is a hybrid of JI and the security establishment in general and its strong Jihadist segment in particular. Imran’s links with the JI are too obvious. Initially Qazi deployed expert campaign designers of JI, Mansoor Siddiqui (creator of “Zalimo….” slogan for Qazi), Shams Raza Khan and Mohammad Ali Durrani along with two of the founding members of Pasban, Shabeer Sial and Mahmood ul Raheed (elected as member of the Punjab Assembly on JI/IJI ticket in 1988), to help Imran organize his campaign for 1997 election. The JI itself boycotted that election. Shabeer Sial later served PTI as its president of Lahore, while Mahmood ul Rasheed presently holds this position.
Ejaz Chaudhry, Vice President and Incharge Youth Affairs of PTI, considered to be the closest adviser to Imran, is an ex-JI man and son-in-law of Madudi’s immediate JI successor, Mian Tufail Muhammad. Another VP of PTI Abdul Hafeez Khan too is an ex-IJT Nazim (head) of Punjab University.
Since its inception till present day, the governing body of PTI has been overly populated by ex-members or sympathizers of the JI. Usually two parties develop rivalry, if members of one are snatched by the other. However, PTI and the JI are hand in hand together as JI members left the JI and joined PTI on the behest of JI, under an orchestrated infiltration of an up and coming party. Not only was Imran quick to forgive IJT when its workers manhandled him at the Punjab University in Nov. 2007; but the person he appointed as Chief of PTI’s student wing (ISF), Ehsan Niazi, is also an ex-IJT man. Therefore, the students running from IJT because of its hoodlumism and joining ISF will once again find themselves under an ex-IJT man.
As elections draw near, the growing popularity of PTI will attract opportunists from all political backgrounds. However, PTI will most likely retain its core group that has JI’s ideology deep seated in its heart and mind.
PTI connections with the Jihadists
During 1995-1996, just before the launching of PTI, Imran had numerous meetings with General Hamid Gul. On one’s reviewing leading news papers of that time, one finds them full of speculations that Imran and Gul were jointly launching a party to provide alternative leadership to those fed up with bipartisan politics. It did not happen after all, probably to avoid exposure of Imran’s close links with former members of the security establishment who were still close to Jihadi outfits.
However, Lt. General Mujeeb-ul-Rehman, who had served as secretary information during Zia-ul-Haq’s regime and said to have close links with the security establishment and Gul Hameed, was one of the founding members of PTI who went on to become its secretary general. Presently one of the central PTI leaders, Ahmad Awais is Gul Hameed’s nephew (one who lost Supreme Court bar election to Asma Jahangir).
In 1997, soon after the launching of PTI, Imran Khan toured Chechnya where, for one week, he was the guest of Mujahideen rebel Leader Aslan Maskhadov, who would later in 1999 go on to institute full sharia law in Chechnya and who was at that time the President of Chechnya.
The soft or apologetic stance of PTI on the Taliban issue is also a well known fact. Imran has been opposing Military operations against the Taliban and trying to justify the Taliban movement as “Pushtoon nationalist resistance against occupation forces.” He is also on record defending Taliban’s way of ‘justice’. He has been one voice with Islamist parties on the issues of war on terror, drone attacks, Aafia Siddiqui, Raymod Davis etc.
Imran’s right hand man Ejaz Chaudhry has close links with fanatic sectarian organizations like Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan (SSP aka LeJ). Recently, he was one of the speakers at their seminar on Usman-e-Ghani Martyrdom Day at the Lahore Press Club on Nov 15, 2011. He actively participated in the rallies of another extremist organization Aalmi Majlis-e-Tahaffuz-e-Khatem-e-Nabuwat (AMTKN), notorious for its extreme hatred and incitement to violence against Ahmadiyya minority. Ejaz Chaudhry took the podium at a rally held by AMTKN in favor of Mumtaz Qadri (the self-confessed killer of Salman Taseer) “where he declared that he speaks for Imran Khan when he says that 295 C is a settled matter in Pakistan and is a godly law that no one should dare touch”. His discourse on alleged involvement of the CIA and RAW in the PNS Mehran attack is identical to TTP-SSP-LeJ-JI rhetoric.
When in Nov 2007 Imran was arrested protesting against the declaration of emergency by Gen. Musharaf and detained in D.I. Khan Jail, then TTP’s President Baitullah Mehsud threatened Pakistan government that Taliban would blow-up the D.I. Khan Jail if Imran was not released in 24 hours. His statement appeared in all leading news papers. Imran actually did get released by GOP within 24 hours of Mehsud’s statement. Later on Oct 02, 2008 when Baitullah Mehsud made a public appearance in South Waziristan, the local president of PTI Toofan Burki garlanded him and put a traditional pagri (turban) upon his head.
Shireen Mazari (also known as Lady Taliban), the Spokesperson and Adviser on Foreign Affairs for PTI, is a paranoid anti-US and anti Indian academic. She is a female version of Hamid Gul and Zaid Hamid for her advocacy of conspiracy theories in the media. She writes a regular column for the website run by Ahmed Quraishi who being a close soul brother of Zaid Hamid gives him a run for his money in promoting baseless conspiracy theories to blame atrocities and actions of the Taliban on others. Currently they are blaming the Rabbani’s assassination on the CIA and RAW. Quraishi is also infamous for promoting the faked wikileaks cables, getting caught out in that scam. Hosted on that website it is no surprise that she has been pushing the conspiracy theory of the involvement of CIA and/or RAW in attacks on Mehran base, which is contrary to the finding of slain journalist Saleem Shahzad, who exposed the involvement Al-Qaida and its secret cell in Navy in that whole episode – a revelation that cost him his life.
Shireen Mazari is said to have close connections with the security establishment. She is a regular lecturer at the National Defense College (NDC); where her specialized subject is Islamic ideology. If the curriculum of the ‘educational revolution’ that Imran Khan is talking about to bring in Pakistan, is going to be designed by likes of Mazari, then our schools will produce more Taliban than even madrasas could do.
Will PTI deliver?
In his most-talked-about recent rally in Lahore, Imran Khan said nothing new; but pushed the single-point thesis of the establishment in which the entire problems of the country are attributed to the corruption of the politicians. This is the agitprop that the deep state of Pakistan has been amplifying through media since restoration of the democratic system in 1988 and on the pretext of which many elected governments were dismissed half way through their mandated period to rule the country during the 1990’s. Imran Khan only strengthened the belief of a common man that corruption of politicians really is the actual cause of all his miseries, which is only a quarter of the truth. The hyperbole of this overstatement has always been aimed at playing down and concealing the root cause of the country’s actual distress, which in fact is the jingoism and martial plans of our establishment, eating up the country’s limited resources. Also, bigot Mullah, is the other big obstacle in nation’s progress. Imran Khan represents the elements responsible for these evils. This disparate nation is once again seeking remedy of its problems from the source of the problems itself. If Imran Khan now has the cure of the problems of the country, then the JI always had it. In that case people of Pakistan have been fools not to have ever elected the JI to power.
Note to readers: This article contains a number of blue shaded hyperlinks which can be clicked on for further reading about certain points made.